Most people think of dog training as teaching the dog NOT to do something. However, counter-intuitively, this is not the best approach to take. Sure, we can punish our dog for doing things we don’t like but that only teaches him to not to do that specific thing – it doesn’t teach him what we’d like instead. When we punish one behaviour another will take its place (you can’t have a behavioural vacuum!). Unfortunately, unless we are specific about what we’d like that behaviour to be, the replacement may be worse than the original problem, and the fallout from the punishment might be a lot more damaging than you considered.
Reframe the Problem to Find the Solution
Management to prevent the issue is a big part of the solution but for training, the better question to ask is “how do I teach my dog to…”
Here are some examples of problems and how to reframe them for solutions:
Problem: Jumping on people
• Four on the floor
• Carry a toy (lots of dogs don’t jump if they are carrying something)
• Go to a mat
• Hand touch/body lean
• Put jumping on cue/command
Management: use barriers and leads to prevent access to people while over excited.
Problem: Pulling on lead
• Focus on you
• Release lead pressure (the pressure itself is the signal to slow down)
• Follow a hand target
• Sit and focus on you (good for specific distractions such as people or other dogs)
Management: use harnesses/head collars to prevent successful pulling.
Problem: counter surfing/stealing food
• Stay on a mat while cooking is happening
• Chew a Kong during meal times
• Keep four on the floor while food is on benches
Management: use barriers to prevent access to food while unsupervised.
So, if you have a problem behaviour, ask yourself: what would I like my dog to do instead?” and for management “how can I prevent my dog practicing the behaviour I don’t like while I can’t train?” Now you have a framework to get what you want without punishing your dog.
– Sarah and the Gang
PS If you’d like to find out more about stopping unwanted behaviour, without turning into an ogre, check out this little ebook here.
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